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The purpose of dreams has been a debated topic for a long time. There are many theories for why we have dreams and their hidden meanings. According to clinical psychologist Dr. Carla Marie Manly, dreams can be a way of offloading excess stress, thoughts, or emotional energy. In other cases, some say dreams can give insights into your mind and repressed emotions. If this is the case, what does it mean when you have a negative dream, like breaking up with your partner or worse a dream about cheating?
For those who are in a romantic relationship, waking up and realizing you had a dream about cheating or being cheated on can be unsettling and trigger silent feelings of insecurity about your relationship. On the other hand, if you're single and having dreams about cheating (either on a previous ex or total stranger), that can be equally confusing on what is going on in your subconscious.
We know that dreams about cheating don't feel good at the moment, so to help you uncover the true meaning of your dreams, we tapped two psychologists for expert help. Keep reading to learn if your dreams about cheating actually symbolize something bigger and how to deal with them.
What does it mean if you have dreams about cheating and you are in a romantic relationship?
A dream about cheating on your partner can have many meanings, says, New York City-based neuropsychologist, Dr. Sanam Hafeez. "Cheating on your partner in a dream could mean something is missing from your relationships, such as passion or excitement. It could also mean you feel unfulfilled by your sex life or you have a crush on someone else," she says.
Dreams of cheating could also hint at fears you may have about the behavior or could signal something entirely different like cheating on something else in your life, such as addiction recovery, explains Dr. Hafeez. If you have dreams that your partner is cheating on you, Dr. Manly says that often indicates a lack of trust or sense of security in your partner or relationship.
What does it mean if you have a dream about cheating and you aren't in a romantic relationship?
As Dr. Hafeez previously mentioned, dreaming about cheating can mean almost anything. If you're dreaming about cheating and aren't in a romantic relationship, it could hint at something going on within yourself. "It may signify you have feelings of self-betrayal or guilt in your life," says Dr. Hafeez.
She further explains it can also represent a situation in your life, romantic or non-romantic, where you were feeling dishonest or going against your integrity. In other words, it could mean that you are "cheating yourself" by not being honest or genuine about your feelings, wants, or needs, says Dr. Manly. "This type of dream can be a wake-up call that's saying you aren't being true to yourself," she says. "There are some things you need to face with honesty so that you can be the best version of yourself."
How should you deal with dreams about cheating in any circumstance?
We know it's tempting, but instead of searching through a random online dream dictionary, Dr. Manly recommends taking a step back and reflect on what's going on in your life to help you decipher your dream. "Many dreams tend to have basic themes across populations, but the decoding process needs to be personal given every person has a unique background and history," she says.
One way to reflect is by journaling. Dr. Manly recommends writing about your dream and life to see if you find any connections or anything that resonates with you. "If the deciphering process doesn't initially yield results, allow yourself to sleep on it (literally), and let your psyche continue to do its work. By paying attention to your dreams, the messages will eventually become clear," she says.
If you find that your dreams about cheating are connected to concerns in your relationship, Dr. Hafeez says to have an open discussion with your partner or a therapist. "Having these conversations may alleviate any worries or anxieties, and you may stop dreaming about cheating."
Ultimately, it's important to remember, dreams can have many meanings. Sometimes it can suggest something bigger is going on, but other times it can just be a passing thought. There's no way to really know what they mean unless you take the time to reflect on your thoughts and life. Dr. Hafeez says, "Take dreams with a grain of salt and as an opportunity to teach you something valuable."